Happy New Year 2016

Looking ahead is always good, new plans and dreams require planning and optimism and you can’t go wrong with these traits and activities. However, sometimes there is much to be gained by looking back as well. There are lessons learned, failures to digest, victories to build upon, accomplishments to relish and seemingly insurmountable obstacles overcome.

frontcoverSo on this last day of 2015 I noticed that I had written a Happy New Year 2015 blog post and so I read it to find out what I might have been thinking last New Year’s Eve. I’m sure it was a rough one, although you would not know if from my brief post. Tricia was dying, there was no doubt in my mind that without the miracle of all time I was celebrating my last New Year’s Eve with her. From my blog post I remembered that my main camera had served me well for six years, but had finally snapped it’s last image. I wrote of the anticipation of a new camera in 2015 but I remember thinking how unlikely that would actually be.

My blog for 2015 looked pretty bleak, including only the one goal of going out to the Lost Creek Wilderness for pictures. And of course on the first of March in the middle of the night in a blizzard we took our final ambulance ride together to Memorial Hospital. There was nothing more the doctors could do and two days later she passed away at the Pikes Peak Hospice at Penrose Hospital. There was no time to mourn, there was too much to do and not enough time to do it. Much to my surprise though, with some help from church members I was pretty much moved out of our cottage before her memorial service near the end of March.

As a result of a true miracle from God, it wasn’t long before I had the new camera and was making plans for an eventful summer. I made it to two whitewater festivals on the Arkansas, Bison Peak in the Lost Creek Wilderness that I previously mentioned, photographed the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run, visited the wolves in Guffey with Facebook friends and wolf warriors Lisa and Jeanne, explored new trails on Pikes Peak and got a press pass to report on the Pikes Peak Ascent where I finally met my Facebook friend Jill in real life. Photographing the mountain goats and bighorn sheep on Mount Evans and climbing the two 14ers later in September were so far beyond my wildest expectations that I still have to pinch myself to believe it. With the help of Tracy Roach, we also finished an Examiner article about her climbing adventures that we had started months ago!

But I think that by far the most important lessons from 2015 involve lessons learned about grieving and also of building personal relationships. It was my plan to just become a mountain hermit, do my photography and writing, and live here on my mountain in solitude. But it was not meant to be so. I should have known when old friends Doug from Control Data Corporation and Frank and Michelle came out for Tricia’s memorial. My brother Jim and his girlfriend Robin came to visit later and much to my surprise, Jim and I climbed the Manitou Incline, something I had been wanting to do for years. In surprising and unexpected fulfillment of a deathbed promise to Tricia, I met met my Facebook friend Apryl in real life as well. Through her I made some more new friends and even re-connected with my old friend David from our old neighborhood in Parker at the Manitou Coffin Racesย  on our racing team that she organized.

However summer’s end and the associated short days and long hours of darkness came with terrible sadness when Apryl had to move back to Northern Colorado for an awesome new job opportunity and I once again began to entertain the idea of life as a mountain hermit. I think this is when I learned the most important concept of the entire year. I received a message from one Facebook friend one evening asking me if I had heard recently from another Facebook friend. I was kind of feeling sorry for myself and a bit lonely too at the time and really didn’t feel like talking to anyone, but I started thinking that I had not heard from her in quite a while. So I checked and indeed, she had not posted anything or messaged me in a long time.

I started trying to track her down and find out what was going on and that is when I was hit by a startling revelation. The isolation I was contemplating is selfish and self destructive. I realized that while I was sitting around feeling sorry for myself others were fighting terrible battles in their lives as well and as a mature long time believer, God was expecting me to get involved, to continue where He left off when Jesus said, โ€œThe Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruisedโ€.

The major lesson learned here is that so often, the thing we need the most is the very thing we are supposed to be giving away. As I began to take action on this knowledge I also discovered that many times a gesture that seems small to me can make a huge difference in the life of someone else. I think not because I have any unusual ability or strength, but because a task that is small for me might be an impossible burden for someone else, just as my own battles sometimes appear insurmountable to me and minuscule to someone else. Each and every one of us has talents and tools that someone else is needing and it is selfishness to conceal them in solitude, even if all we might have to offer is an encouraging word or a hug at an opportune time.

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Train Travel

So I have been seeing this post about how wonderful it would be to travel by train across the country for only $213… and I feel I should weigh in with my own experience with said method of travel. Before I start however, I must admit that there is something to be said for an experience that one can remember, relish and even write about some thirty years after the fact ๐Ÿ™‚

moffat-tunnelNow this whole adventure began with an idea I had with some running friends to travel to get some 50 mile mountain runs under our belts as preparation for the 1988 Leadville Trail 100 Mile Run. The race we wanted to run was the San Juan Trail 50 mile run up in the coastal mountains near San Juan Capistrano. We didn’t have a lot of money then, so the train looked like a reasonable substitute for flying. Only a little more than 24 hours of travel time… piece of cake, we thought. It will be fun, they said, there is a bar car, food and think of all the scenery you will get to view!

Day 0, Denver’s Union Station, no problem. The excitement was building, we boarded the train with our running gear, and off we went through the tunnels and up the front range through El Dorado Canyon to the crown jewel of tunnels, the Moffat Tunnel and our first experience riding a train with no air circulation. Apparently the diesel fumes in the long underground exposure are a bad thing, so no air and a bit of diesel fragrance for a while. Well as you can imagine, two ultra runners had no problem surviving a ride through a tunnel.

Now for the enjoyable part of the trip. We cruised through Colorado and the scenery was indeed spectacular, especially Glenwood Canyon and the bar car. Here we met a sweet young lady from Canada who was traveling alone and interested in some company with a couple of knuckleheads from Colorado, don’t remember her name. This of course was before smart phones, Facebook and apparently even paper and pens. Soon Colorado was behind us, but Utah scenery isn’t bad either and we still had money for the bar car ๐Ÿ™‚ Now bear in mind, the train isn’t the airline. There are no complimentary meals or drinks and the prices for said supplements need to be paid for in full at the time of serving.

The day dragged on into evening and the scenery faded into blackness. Sundown coincided with the end of the fun trip ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Now maybe things are different thirty years later, but at the time we were very much dismayed to discover that the bar car closed early. Once again, this isn’t a 747 with movies and radio. At this point you discover that you are traveling on a long dark bus, $213 does not include a sleeper car, not even a cot, just your seat crammed in there with everyone else on your car… No problem we thought, we will just get some sleep and soon it will be morning. So we loaded up our new Canadian team member and moved her to our section of seats and the three of us closed our eyes and drifted off to sleep. Except the sleep did not come. Between the hundreds of snoring passengers, the excitement and anticipation of the race ahead, and the proximity of a potential new girlfriend, sleep proved impossible. And I love that Canadian accent, couldn’t get enough of it. However after a couple of hours, nearby passengers were not nearly as enamored with my new girlfriend as I was and before long the three of us were in hot water with the conductor.

This is where things really began to turn ugly. Unable to sleep or keep quiet apparently, it was not long before we found our little travel trio exiled from the civilized people and confined to an empty non climate controlled prison car. Here is where we learned about railway right of ways. The freight companies own the tracks that the passenger train runs on. Sounds good, except that the freight companies are busy and every time a freight train is encountered the passenger train has to pull over to a sideout and wait thirty minutes to an hour while the freight train passes. Which is also fine if you are asleep with the civilized people, but very cold if you are incarcerated in the โ€œbad peopleโ€ car. Now I don’t remember which was which, but part of the time, when the train was running, we sweltered from unregulated heat. The other part of the time, which I think was on the sideouts, we shivered and buried ourselves in any sort of covering we could find. Unfortunately we were not aware of these circumstances when we left civilization and didn’t bring our bags with us. So we just huddled together and did our best to survive January in Utah and Nevada. On the night when we most needed some sleep to rest up for the task ahead there was no sleep to be had. But the night wasn’t a total loss, I did get to know, however briefly as it was, a cute young Canadian girl ๐Ÿ™‚

Morning finally came and we were allowed back into the civilized car with clothes and snacks. Unfortunately we had vastly underestimated the necessity and the cost of spending the entire trip in the bar car and were running low on funds. So we just huddled and napped as best as we could all the way to LA Union Station. The rest of the trip was not without incident however, as you might imagine with such a long trip on a glorified bus tempers are bound to flare. Don’t remember the reason for the altercation, but at one point we had to disembark one belligerent passenger to another car who said he was coming back but must have thought better of it.

Finally we arrived at Union Station where our little trio of travelers had to separate. My new girlfriend was traveling on to another destination in California, a goodbye kiss on the cheek and I never saw or heard from her again. Calla, one of our friends from the computer company we worked for at the time looked at her and said โ€œWhat was that all about?โ€. Don’t think we ever filled her all in on the entire adventure. Anyway, Calla picked us up for a one night layover at her house before giving us a ride down to the race the following day. This begins an entire new adventure, involving flat tires, oil lights, more snoring and another sleepless night in the cabins at the race, but that is a whole ‘nuther story, for another whole ‘nuther blog post, if anyone is interested ๐Ÿ™‚

For the return trip we knew we would need a better plan… Nearly out of money, we knew there would be no spending a good part of the time in the bar car. So we took out our wallets, counted our money and strategized how to best invest it. We knew we were going to need food and beverage… a lot of beverage. And since any beverage that could make the time pass was officially prohibited we knew we were going to need some of those red party cups. Eventually we decided that the proper combination was going to be a 12 pack of Coors and a large Dominoes pizza apiece. We managed to smuggle the beverage and the food onto the train in our duffel bags, along with plastic cups, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”. We knew we had to wait until nightfall to begin rationing the sleeping medicine, so we whiled the afternoon away reading old Runner’s World and Ultra Running magazines while looking at the lack of eastern California and Nevada scenery. We figured if we drank one beer an hour for twelve hours we could make it until morning with our sanity so we waited until 6 p.m. to begin administering the medicine. I don’t know exactly what time it was that the last beverage was consumed, but we finally managed a slumber, or stupor, whatever you want to call it. I remember we both woke up at the same time with headaches and cotton mouth sometime before 7 a.m. We just kind of looked at each other and then our watches and I remember Craig saying, โ€œI love it when a plan comes together!โ€. We had survived the night on the train. An old lady behind us with a big smile told us good morning, and she said, โ€œOh I thought you guys were going to be real trouble drinking all that beer, but then you just went to sleep!โ€. Craig said, “Yup, that was the plan!”.

We arrived to a new blanket of deep white snow in Colorado, apparently a foot of the stuff had fallen in our short absence. My renter met us at Union Station and told me I didn’t need to worry about the snow. He proudly told me how he had driven his truck back and forth on the driveway and had packed it down really well. When I got home I was relieved to find that the snow shovel had not been stolen or broken, just resting in it’s proper place, unused just inside the garage door. It was only a few weeks before the thick layer of driveway ice withered in the Colorado sunshine.

Well that is pretty much it in a nutshell… the joy of traveling the country by train with no sleeper car.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Concept

I’ve been turning down writing jobs right and left these days… At first they sound good, write your favorite material from home and make money! So you apply and then find out you are going to get $5 per article and you are expected to write five articles a day. I’m like, no you don’t understand, I write when I want to and what I want to. If nothing comes to me I don’t write at all. Sorry, that’s not how we work, good luck.ย  At any rate, I haven’t had any thoughts lately worth putting on paper, until tonight ๐Ÿ™‚

Needed some eats so I walked across the highway to my favorite road house. Green chili was the deal, so that’s what I had. The girl on the bar stool next to me was talking about putting money in the jukebox, something they don’t have at the Crystola and something I haven’t seen in a while come to think of it. So she asks me if I ever get stage fright at the jukebox when I’mย  trying to think of a selection. I had to dig pretty deep into the memory box, but I couldn’t think of any incidence of said phenomenon. She gave me this annoyed look, not that I’m any stranger to annoyed looks from women, in fact I have a long history of annoyed looks from women… blog post running off the tracks again ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

She turned away but I continued to ponder the concept. You go to the machine, look at the menu of selections and push the buttons, just like a vending machine. Nobody gets stage fright ordering a Snickers Bar. Then it started to come to me, no menu, infinite choices… And I’m thinking, the last time I put money in a jukebox was at the Purple Shanty in Bellevue, Nebraska, when I was in the Air Force. “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janice Joplin. Played it so many times I received death threats from Joanie the bartender. Lucky for me she was a gentle soul and the only repercussion from my inevitable subsequent indiscretion was that the 45 was removed from the machine and unceremoniously terminated on the sidewalk outside the bar ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

So I turned to my bar neighbor and said, “But you have to understand, the last time I put money in a jukebox there were only 100 lighted and numbered choices to select from. Then a lever magically appeared from the depths of the machine that moved to the exact location of the 45 record to retrieve the vinyl copy of the song and precisely place it on the turntable while the tone arm moved over and dropped the stylus to convert whatever it is that is in those plastic grooves to music.”. Now the annoyed look was gone and at first she looked at me like I was some kind of alien, vastly preferable to the previous look of annoyance, which then turned into a much more desirable demeanor of amused intrigue ๐Ÿ™‚ย  And enough interest anyway for sufficient conversation to lay another day to rest in the cold Colorado Rocky Mountain winter and give me something entertaining enough, to me anyway, to write another blog post ๐Ÿ™‚

Coincidence

Going through the nearly 8,000 images I captured over the summer and fall making sure I have all the editorial photographs uploaded to iStock for the big transfer to Getty Images that is supposed to occur sometime shortly after the first of the year. One of my major photography goals for the summer was to photograph the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run. It is a special race for me as it was my first run in excess of the 10K distance many years ago, plus for my stock photography business I am well aware that the scenery and splendor of the race will be invaluable in my portfolio.

Most of my year prior to that had been taken up by Tricia’s illness and the necessary activities pursuant to her death that were required in order for me to move on with my life. Finally in June the stormy skies of hardship were starting to part and there was time to start thinking about beginning a life of my own, on my own. I was determined to capture this race so I made sure I was up early on that Sunday morning and in the park before all the roads were closed. Fortunately I was there in time to get a good parking spot in the park with plenty of time to get my gear ready and find a good vantage point.

Within a couple of hours the race was winding down and I was satisfied that I had a sufficient collection of images to tell the story of the race in an article for the Examiner and also for some good stock imagery as well. On my way back to the car I looked back and noticed some nice scenery and a view of the tiny runners headed back to Manitou Springs and the finish line. So I stopped and unpacked the camera for a few more images.

SummerI didn’t know until today how special one of those images would be to me. I hadn’t even heard of the Intemann Trail and had no idea that I would be exploring that and many other historic trails in the area over the rest of the summer. No idea that I would meet a special friend that I had only known by the words and pictures now possible through the miracle of the internet.

Today as I neared the end of the images to upload, one stood out. As I soaked it in I realized that this one image summarized my whole summer. My activities, my new friendship and a passing from my old life to a new life filled with promise and hope for the future. In this one image is the start of summer, the race, the fulfillment of a years long desire. In the background, Red Mountain, Iron Mountain, the path of the Intemann Trail, a summer’s worth of memories and the representation of a new friendship.

At the time this image was captured I had no idea that I would climb those mountains, hike those trails, write of their history, including the legend of Emma Crawford and cultivate a new friendship. Now as I look at that image, I am amazed that so much could be captured in one simple picture.